Closed form is a rarely used term that refers to structures in poetry. If an author writes a poem that conforms to a pre-specified structure, then they are writing in closed form. It is contrasted to open form, or free verse, in which the poet is not restrained by any predetermined set of rules.
Explore Closed Form in Poetry
Closed Form Definition
A closed form poem conforms to a poetic structure. This means that when writing a piece of verse, the poet has a specific rhyme scheme, metrical pattern, or stanza pattern in mind before they start. There are certain rules that the poet has to follow. This kind of poem can be explored below.
Examples of Closed Form Poetry
This less commonly read Lawrence poem depicts a plague of silence on a group of soldiers during World War I. The poem is four stanzas as long, and each of these stanzas maintains a structure of five lines, making them quintains. The poet also uses a consistent rhyme scheme of ABABA throughout. Here is an example:
Because of the silent snow, we are all hushed
No sound of guns, nor overhead no rushed
Vibration to draw
Our attention out of the void wherein we are crushed.
The words “hushed,” “rushed,” and “crushed” rhyme in this closed form poem, as do “awe” and “draw.”
Read more D.H. Lawrence poems.
Edna St. Vincent Millay’s ‘Sonnet 29’ is also known as ‘Pity Me Not Because the Light of Day’ after its first line. The speaker spends the lines asking her lover to stop pitying her. The poet maintained a melancholy tone throughout. Take a look at these lines from the beginning of the poem:
Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by;
The poem is written in closed form. Specifically, it conforms to the pattern of a Shakespearean sonnet. This means that the poem rhymes ABABCDCDEFEFGG. The first four lines represent the “ABAB” in the pattern.
Discover more Edna St. Vincent Milly poems.
This famous closed form poem is also one of the poet’s best-known and most commonly studied. It details a harrowing night in the speaker’s life that includes incessant knocking and a talking raven that only says one word–“Nevermore.”
Throughout, Poe used six-line stanzas, known as the sestets. In total, there are eighteen. The poet also used a consistent rhyme scheme following the pattern of ABCBBB and the metrical pattern trochaic octameter. Here is the first stanza as an example:
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Explore more Edgar Allan Poe poems.
Closed Form vs. Open Form
As noted above, closed form poems are written with a specific structure in mind. This could be a study rhyme scheme of ABABA or a meter maintained as fluidly as possible throughout the piece, like iambic pentameter.
An open form poem, which is the opposite of a closed form poem, is written in free verse. This means that the author does not have a predetermined structure in mind when they start writing. In fact, an open forum poem lacks a specified structure altogether. For example, some lines might only contain two or three words, while others stretch to ten or more. The poet might choose to use a few examples of rhyme but will not fully structure their poem with a pattern.
A closed form poem has to follow a specific structure. What that specific structure is will vary, and it’s up to the poet. They might choose to structure their poem with a steady rhyme scheme, metrical pattern, or more. Additionally, they might conform to a predetermined pattern, such as that seen in a sonnet, villanelle, limerick, and more.
Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’ is a famous example of a highly structured closed form poem. The poet uses an unusual metrical pattern of trochaic hexameter throughout his eighteen sestets. He also uses the rhyme scheme of ABCBBB.
An example of a form in a poem is a sonnet. The sonnet form is one of the most popular and well-known forms a poet might conform their verse to. Sonnets are composed of fourteen lines, usually written in iambic pentameter, and use a few specified rhyme schemes. For example, ABBAABBACDECDE.
Related Literary Terms
- Blank Verse: a kind of poetry that is written in unrhymed lines but with a regular metrical pattern.
- Cadence: the natural rhythm of a piece of text, created through a writer’s selective arrangement of words, rhymes, and the creation of meter.
- Haiku: a three-line Japanese poem that follows a syllable pattern of 5-7-5.
- Limerick: a humorous poem that follows a fixed structure of five lines and a rhyme scheme of AABBA.
- Verse Form: used to describe any structure a poet uses within their work. There are many established verse forms such as the sonnet, haiku, ballad, sestina, and villanelle.
- Dimeter: refers to a specific arrangement of syllables in poetry. If a poem is written in dimeter, that means that the lines contain four syllables each.
- Broken Rhyme: an interesting type of rhyme that occurs when a poet cuts a word in half to create rhyme.
- Watch: Rhyming and Poetry
- Read: Every You Need to Know about Rhyme Schemes in Poetry
- Watch: The Pleasure of Poetic Pattern